Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Garlic Lovers Pasta with Broccoli

I made this salad last year but revisited it with some added broccoli. It's super easy and when you have some leftover buttermilk in the fridge from making fresh ricotta, it's that much easier to whip up. Everyone will be so surprised at how light and yet creamy it tastes. Perfect for snacking or taking for lunch. Feel free to add other vegetables, broccoli is just a favorite with cheese.

This is my entry for this week's Presto Pasta Night, hosted by its founder, Ruth of Once Upon a Feast - Every Kitchen Tells its Stories. Check back on Friday for the roundup. Happy eating!

Garlic Lovers Pasta with Broccoli

1 lb rotini
1/2 cup buttermilk
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 large lemon, juiced
5-8 cloves garlic, minced fine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated fine
1 bunch broccoli, cut into bite size pieces

Bring large pot of water to boil (at least 4 quarts) and add 2 teaspoons salt. Combine buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and salt in mixing cup. Once water is boiling, add pasta and broccoli and cook broccoli 4 minutes, skimming off top of water with slotted spoon; set aside. Cook pasta al dente, drain and add back to pot. Add garlic to pasta and stir vigorously to allow hot pasta to gently cook garlic. Add buttermilk dressing along with cheese and broccoli and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least 2 hours. Best at room temperature.


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Sardinian Mussel Soup at Hunger Angler Gardener Cook
Kofta Curry and Potato Tamarind Raita at Honey From Rock 
Rumtof at Think On It

Monday, September 27, 2010

Asian Corn and Shiitake Mushroom Salad

This summer, when the corn was plentiful and cheap, I bought many, many, many ears of it, cooked it up, cut it off the cob and froze it. Now, as we move into the fall season (also known as the Second Spring here in southern California) I am enjoying many corn salads. This one was inspired by a desire to use some shiitake mushrooms.

Until recently, shiitakes were not a part of my repertoire; I would buy them and not know what to do with them. But since working at Co-opportunity where we have an abundance of fresh mushrooms and customers who buy them by the bucketful, I started asking said customers what they did with them. Most answered that they simply fried them up or added them to stir fry. Apparently, shiitakes are high in protein, many of the B vitamins and have immune boosting properties.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Succotash Soup

I have a vivid memory of sometime in the third grade, around Thanksgiving, when we were learning about the origins of the holiday and there was some sort of reenactment of the feast that included real food. I do not recall turkey or cranberries but I do know that there was some succotash, lima beans and corn, and that I was the lucky one who got to finish eating the bowl after the play was done. I also recall that I was shocked that no one was fighting me for the leftovers and sitting in a corner I proceeded to shovel spoonful after spoonful of that starchy deliciousness into my belly. I have loved the combination of corn, lima beans and butter ever since.

This soup was whipped up a few evenings ago when the chilly night air was invading the house and I realized that I had a bonanza of frozen corn-off-the-cob that I had made this summer for just such an evening. I added the homemade bacon bits because the bacon was next to the corn in the freezer and I could tell they wanted to come out to play together. Feel free to leave it out and make it a vegetarian soup.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions

If you grew up in the Northeast (Boston, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York) you probably were surrounded by Italian Americans. Actually, they were probably Sicilians, but most people thought of them as simply Italian. "Eye-talyans" is how many people pronounced the word, but no matter how you said it, it meant that a sausage and pepper sandwich was probably near at hand and always oh so delicious.

You really can't go wrong with this; fry up onions and peppers over medium heat until they start to soften and caramelize and add in the sausage. Put it all on a hoagie/sub/hero roll and enjoy. There is no need for any condiments or cheese or nutin' else. This is pure, unadulterated joy on a plate or a bun.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pasta Frittata

While I am unabashedly in love with Italian food, I pride myself on the fact that I have only 5 Italian cookbooks out of my extensive collection: Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cookbook, Patricia Well's Trattoria, Mario Batali's Molto Italiano, Arthur Schwartz's The Southern Italian Table, and... Italy Today, the Beautiful Cookbok, something I got at Costco for $9.99.

It's a gorgeous, cocktail table cookbook and surprisingly modern yet classic. I probably read through more than half of it before I decided to buy it, since I am not easily seduced by beautiful pictures; I need new recipes as well. Not only does this cookbook deliver on simple, modern Italian fare but it includes "cucina povera" dishes like this pasta frittata, all with gorgeous photos to boot.

Cucina povera is simply Italian for saying cooking with threadbare ingredients when you're poor. I love it because it speaks to my thrifty nature and I love cooking from the pantry. Also, for people who sigh at leftovers, this is a particularly good transformation since leftover pasta does not reheat well.  I'm sending this over to Val at More Than Burnt Toast who is hosting Presto Pasta Nights this week. Check back on Friday for the roundup!

Pasta Frittata

2/3 lb cooked pasta (I used leftover pasta puttanesca)
7 eggs, beaten
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine eggs, cheese, parsley and pasta in bowl and mix well to ensure noodles are coated with egg mixture and all ingredients are evenly distributed. Heat an 8 inch skillet (preferably able to pass under the broiler) over medium high heat for 2 minutes. Add olive oil and swirl to coat. Pour in pasta mixture and distribute evenly. Cook over medium heat for 20-25 minutes until egg sets and bottom begins to brown. Pass skillet under broiler for 3-5 minutes until top is cooked. Cut in 8ths and serve. This is also excellent cold or at room temperature and does improve sitting for a day.


P.S. I love, love, LOVE it! when I synch up with Mark Bittman, as in today's Minimalist post (diary of a food weekend alone).

Recipes currently inspiring me:

Garlic Chard Roti at ECurry
Kefta and Zucchini Kabobs at Smitten Kitchen
Indonesian Corn Fritters at Bitten (The Temporary Vegetarian)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Block Island Steamers

Ever since childhood I have had two inspirations that have deeply influenced how I interact with food in my adult life: Little House on the Prairie and Jeremiah Johnson. Does that seem nuts? The first were the books that I read over and over and over again, soaking up all of the daily means of surviving on the prairie during the late 1800s. The second is one of Robert Redford's best movies about a fur trapper surviving a winter in Montana or Wyoming in the early 1800s.

What the two have in common is survival off the land. It's always been my fantasy life for me, and yes, I know how difficult it would all be. Two blogs on my blogroll, Fat of the Land and Hunter Angler Gardner Cook, let me live this fantasy vicariously. I envy their knowledge and time to forage and gather food from the land. But finally, I was able to do a little myself when I gathered clams on Block Island last week.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kate's Classic Stuffed Mushrooms

I just came back from a wonderful beach vacation on Block Island, Rhode Island. I napped, lazed on the beach, floated in the ocean and ate lots of great food that we all prepared. One of the real treats was this appetizer: simple, classic, delicious! Kate was gracious enough to allow me to share it all with you.

At this particular meal we ate the clams that we had foraged - more on that in a later post. But starting the meal out with these luscious, mushroomy morsels was fantastic!

Kate mentioned that you can tart these up if you like, adding garlic or shallots or other savory bits - my thoughts went to fried sage leaves or even some bacon. But that would make them less "quick" and they are super quick and easy. I loved how the mushroom taste wasn't overwhelmed by the rest of the ingredients but shown through as the star of the dish.

Kate's Classic Stuffed Mushrooms

16 large white mushrooms (3-4 mushrooms per diner)
1 medium onion, minced
1 1/4 sticks butter
2 cups plain bread crumbs
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded fine
black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove stems from mushrooms and chop fine. Melt butter and add to mixing bowl with onion, bread crumbs, cheese and chopped mushroom stems. Combine well and stuff into caps of mushrooms. Bake for 20 minutes or until browned.


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Tea Smoked Chicken at Blue Kitchen
Melon and Mozzarella Salad with Honey, Lime and Mint at Pinch My Salt
Clam, Bacon and Caramelized Onion Pita Pizza at The Perfect Pantry

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Classic Pasta Puttanesca

I love everything in this dish - olives, capers, and red pepper flakes. If you're feeling brave (or just built that way) add in the anchovies, they really give it that authentic kick.

Yes, puttanesca is named after the ladies of the night who supposedly created this dish (and many jokes have been made at their expense, noting the quick and cheap nature of the dish). But it really is a classic that is a wonderful way to enjoy pasta when you want that classic tomatoey-cheese dinner.

I recently had an amazing Cesar salad with fresh anchovy fillets (look for anchovy recipes, I was transfixed!) so I did opt for the anchovies. Abby of Eat the Right Stuff is hosting this week's Presto Pasta Night so I'm sending this to her and if you would like to participate send your entry to abby (at) eattherightstuff (dot) com and cc ruth (at) 4everykitchen (dot) com by Thursday and come back for the roundup on Friday.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fresh Ricotta, Zucchini and Olive Tart

A few posts ago I made fresh ricotta cheese ravioli - so good! But once I had discovered how easy it was to make fresh ricotta I thought, this would be great on toast, on tarts, in salad, you name it. So here we go.

I had a couple of zucchini to cook up before leaving on a week of vacation - shout out to anyone on Block Island when you're reading this, just got back! Grating the zucchini and salting it to rid it of some of its excess moisture helps keep the tart from getting mushy. I then sprinkled the fresh ricotta and some crumbled blue cheese, and of course my eternal favorite, some black olives. It was great hot, warm and cold!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage and Garlic

"Why did the Italians lose the war? Because when they were told to buy shells, they bought ziti!" That's the joke that I was always told by the Italian Americans I knew growing up in Middletown, Connecticut. Regardless of who won the war (or how) I grew to love baked ziti - it is the Italian version of mac-n-cheese - so you know it is full of calories and lots of comfort!

In this version I reversed the proportions that you usually find, using only a little sausage for flavor and tons of garlic (a full head, thank you very much!) Instead of a sauce I had a bunch of cherry tomatoes that needed to be used and combined with a lovely red wine they made a delicious sauce.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Seared Beef, Bean Sprout and Cucumber Salad

If you are a frequent reader, you may have noticed that I have begun a feature at the end of my posts entitled, "Recipes currently inspiring me," where I post three recipes from the food blogs on my blogroll that are inspiring me. I hope you find it helpful, but truth be told, it is more for my benefit so that I can keep a list of recipes that I'm interesting in making or riffing off of without having a bookmark folder larger than my hard drive! This meal came from one of those inspirations, specifically this recipe. And it was a doozey!

I knew that I loved all of these flavors and loved the idea of the raw veggies with all of those Asian ingredients, but the combination is incredible! Even my mom, not always a fan of more "exotic" ingredients as she deems them, loved this salad. So consider this one a double recommendation.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cheese Ravioli with Butter Onion Tomato Sauce

Can you hear that big grin spreading across my face? A smugness that just permeates my writing? I would apologize but I fear that my emotions seep too easily through my words and you would know that my apology wasn't genuine. I just love to make homemade pasta, and stuffed pasta like this ravioli, in particular. But what I love even more is to serve it to friends and family. I am particularly vain about it, and refrain from telling them that it is homemade until they have tried it. Then I bask in the glory. Ahh, the Italians who perfected pasta were most certainly descended from gods!

For this ocassion, I was anticipating several small children for dinner so I stuck with a very simple sauce, but one about which folks on the food blogs have been raving. It is the simple combination of butter, tomato and an onion cut in half, simmered for an hour and enjoyed immediately. It was heaven.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Skillet Black Bean and Polenta Casserole

Strange brew - that's what I will tell people when they ask how's the weather in L.A. These past few weeks I have woke up to heavy fog that runs the lenth of the city, not just in Santa Monica, which is known for its early morning "marine layer" as Angeleans refer to it. And the evenings quickly take on a chill once the sun sets. So this skillet of beans, polenta and tomato sauce really hits the spot when I want something warm and comforting.

If you have leftover prepared polenta, this comes together lickety-split! Queso fresca is the fresh cheese use in lots of Mexican style dishes and is usually sold in neighborhood bodegas or in the gourmet aisle of cheeses. Similar to feta but not as salty, it melts nicely without becoming too gooey. Substitute a mix of feta and goat cheese if you can't find it.

Skillet Black Bean and Polenta Casserole

15 oz can prepared black beans (or 1 1/2 cups prepared beans)
1 pint tomato sauce
8 oz queso fresca
prepared polenta, cut through the middle to create 1/4 in thick slices
10 oil cured black olives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine beans and tomato sauce in bowl. In skillet that can be baked (or a round pan) arrange polenta slices on the bottom, spoon half of tomato-bean sauce on top, crumble half of the queso fresca, add another layer of polenta slices, remainder of tomato-bean sauce and the rest of the queso fresca. Top with chopped olives if desired and bake for 20 minutes until bubbly and cheese is browned.


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Pickled Serrano Chile Peppers from Kiss My Salt
BLT Pasta at Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice
Olive and Goat Cheese Tart at Ladybeard's Kitchen

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cilantro Chutney Hummus

I had some leftover cilantro chutney and cooked chick peas, which together makes a delicious hummus like dip. It's very cilantro-ey, so be prepared for that! I thought it made a great dip for veggies, especially on a warm afternoon when you don't feel like creating any heat!

I bet this would make an amzing, falafel-style fried goodie as well. Let me know if you give that a whirl!

Cilantro Chutney Hummus

1 cup cilantro chutney
1 1/2 cups chick peas (15 oz can) cooked
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon olive oil

Puree all in blender until finely pureed. Scrape down sides to ensure all are blended. Serve with vegetable crudite.


Recipes currently inspiring me:
Melitzanosalada at Chez Cayenne
Oatmeal Breakfast Bread Sticky Gooey Cream Chewey
Manzanita Cider at Hunter Angler Gardner Cook

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Homemade Fettuccine Alfredo with Scallops

Fettuccine Alfredo is one of those dishes that has been overused and basterdized all over the place. The truth is, it is simply butter, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. That's it, that simple, and when prepared like that, incredibly good.

I like to make it with homemade noodles so that the noodles take center stage and are not overshadowed with a heavy red or cream sauce. The butter coats the noodles (don't skimp on the amount, it's what makes the dish) and the cheese sticks to the butter like a light kiss. The salt and pepper make each individual ingredient pop and I think there is no better comfort food.

I have served it plain - just pasta and sauce - but my dining companion was in the mood for some seared scallops, so they were added along with some basil for some flair. Delicious!